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Kazakh Poacher Convicted Of Murdering Wildlife Ranger, Receives 18-Year Sentence

People attend the funeral of wildlife ranger Qanysh Nurtazinov, who was killed in July 2019.
People attend the funeral of wildlife ranger Qanysh Nurtazinov, who was killed in July 2019.

NUR-SULTAN -- A court in Nur-Sultan has sentenced a man to 18 years in prison in a high-profile case involving the killing of a wildlife ranger during a confrontation with suspected poachers.

The Aqmola regional court on March 4 found Anatoly Bonyakevich guilty of murdering Qanysh Nurtazinov, attempting to murder his colleague Samat Ospanov, and illegally hunting the endangered saiga antelope.

The deadly incident took place in July last year in the Aqmola region, when Nurtazinov and Ospanov tried to stop men who had been hunting the animals.

The suspected poachers attacked the two wildlife rangers, shooting Nurtazinov, a 43-year-old father of four, to death and wounding Ospanov.

The sentence comes just two weeks after a court in the central city of Qaraghandy sentenced three men to life and six other people to six years each for their roles in the killing of another wildlife ranger and attempting to murder his colleague while illegally hunting saiga antelope in January last year.

The deadly attacks on rangers sparked outrage in the Central Asian nation and highlighted the growing threats to Kazakhstan’s famed saiga, an endangered ancient species of antelope protected under Kazakh law.

Once plentiful in Central Asia, the saiga, known for their flexible noses that resemble a shortened elephant trunk, were hit hard in 2015 when about 200,000 of the animals died from a mysterious blood-related illness.

Only about 100,000 saiga, which have been hunted for centuries for their meat and horns, remain.

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